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Building a Better Pill Bottle

GlowCap pill bottle

In a fascinating blog post on healthspottr.com, David Rose talks about how packaging can influence health behavior. He gives us a few examples, like the circular bubble pack dispenser introduced in the 1960s to help women remember to take their birth control pills. Or toothbrush bristles that change colors when it’s time for a new toothbrush. While innovative, he notes, these designs are not responsive to actual behavior.

Enter the GlowCap™ – smart medication packaging created by entrepreneurs at Vitality, Inc.. According to Rose:

Successful programs for smoking cessation, exercise, and dieting teach us that social feedback loops are key to effective behavioral change. The best programs combine social dynamics with immediate personalized feedback. They educate, they nurture and they admonish. They coach. We channel these lessons of behavioral change to improve medication adherence. Smart medication packaging can be the catalyst.

The GlowCap™ is an Internet-connected pill cap that glows a light (a visual alarm) when it’s time to take your medication. If an hour goes by and you still haven’t opened the bottle, a ringtone sounds. After two hours, you’ll get an automated phone call asking why you haven’t taken your medicine and if you need to talk with a pharmacist.

We love this design for several reasons:

  • It’s easy to learn. There is no complicated interface – just open the bottle to shut off the alarm.
  • The feedback is flexible. You don’t get an beep or alarm every time you have to take the pill – the feedback is meaningful, since you only hear the sound if the time to take the pill has passed. Take the pill on time, and you’ll never get the feedback that the dose was missed.
  • The user is in control. (We’d like to see more about how the alarm can be set or adjusted by the user or pharmacist. For example, could the pharmacist set the dosage timing for 8 AM, 1 PM, and 6 PM? Can the user change it to 7 AM, 12 PM, and 5 PM?)
  • It’s practical. GlowCap™ fits popular prescription bottles available at retail pharmacies. The cost of embedding a wireless chip and microcomputer into a pill cap is about $5 dollars.

The GlowCap™ has further capabilities, like alerting family members or doctors when doses are missed, and providing data in the form of ‘progress reports’ that are automatically faxed to your physician. The GlowCap™ can even send a message to your pharmacy to refill your prescription… before you run out of pills. The GlowCap™ has been able to lift prescription adherence from the average of 50% to over 85%. The benefits of good design are many!

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